BHP Billiton chief Andrew Mackenzie has vowed to maintain the company’s generous dividend despite weak commodity prices. Photo: Pat SullivanBHP Billiton’s dividend yield has reached “once in a lifetime” levels, after the company kept a promise to grow the return to shareholders despite posting its lowest profit in more than a decade, analysts say.

BHP paid out $US1.24 per share in total during the 2015 financial year, which was 2 per cent higher than the previous year despite an 86 per cent slump in statutory profits, and despite the fact the company’s revenues have shrunk on the back of the South32 demerger.

The company’s promise to continue growing dividends prompted its London listed shares to soar by 8 per cent in early trade on Tuesday night before closing 6 per cent higher.

When the dividend is compared to BHP’s share price, the miner is now boasting a better dividend yield than all of Australia’s major banks.

Dividend yields are calculated by dividing the dividends per share by the company’s share price, and the measure provides an insight into how much return an investor is getting on their investment.

The yield on BHP’s Australian shares was 7.36 per cent at the close of trading on Tuesday, while the yield on BHP’s London shares was beyond 8 per cent.

For comparison, Rio Tinto’s yield is hovering just below 6 per cent.

Shaw Stockbroking analyst Peter O’Connor​ left clients in no doubt about the significance of the yield.

“It is worth noting that BHP’s progressive dividend per share ($US1.24) puts BHP on a once in a lifetime/generation dividend yield of about 7 per cent,” he said in a note to clients.

Bernstein analyst Paul Gait said BHP’s yield was higher than had been seen in the mining sector for at least 20 years, if not longer.

“In recent history this is as high as I’ve ever seen it,” he told Fairfax Media.

“So the question is, what moves? Do they cut the dividend or does the share price go up?”

Speaking on Tuesday evening, BHP chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said the company would prefer to cut spending on growth projects rather than cut the progressive dividend policy, which guarantees the dividends will never fall.

“Over my dead body sounds a little strong but it’s almost right,” he said, in reference to the circumstances in which he would be willing to cut the dividend.

“You shouldn’t doubt our commitment to maintain the progressive dividend, quite independent of any divestment or any additional sources of cash. Our ability to defend it comes from our exemplary program for productivity and efficiency and the strength of our balance sheet.”

Mr Gait said the size of BHP’s yield left investors with a “fairly binary” decision to make.

“To the extent that people are somewhat sanguine about the macro environment, this tells them this is rock-bottom prices for BHP Billiton,” he said.

“BHP Billiton is pretty adamant that the dividend is secure, they claim there is plenty of flexibility in the balance sheet and in the capital structure to allow them to weather the storm and they are not going to cut it, ergo this is the time to fill your boots on BHP Billiton shares.

“If, however, you are concerned about the global macro conditions, you have to put BHP Billiton’s assurances to one side. If you are concerned that BHP is going to continue to push tonnes rather than prioritise value then there is further downside on the commodity deck, in which case BHP will eventually have to cut the dividend.

“For me, I think we are at the bottom of the cycle, I think the pain is behind us rather than in front of us and therefore this is the time to buy the mining stocks.”

Liberum analyst Richard Knights said he did not think BHP’s dividend was in danger of being cut in the near term, but he said the company may have to cut eventually if conditions continue to deteriorate.

“Further down the line I wouldn’t rule it out. If we had copper below $US2 per pound, iron ore below $40 per pound and oil where it is for a 12-month period they would be unlikely to be able to cover the dividend without further borrowing, and their credit rating would be already under significant pressure,” he said.

“At that point, they may not be willing to add leverage.”

Copper was fetching $US2.29 per pound on Tuesday evening, while the benchmark iron ore price was fetching $US53.45 per tonne.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott joins the Remote School Attendance Strategy bus to pick up school children for school in Bamaga, during his visit to Cape York on Wednesday. Photo: Alex EllinghausenAbbott pushed for US request to join Syria air strikes

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the government expects to make a decision next week on whether to join air strikes in Syria as he brushed aside questions on whether his office pushed for a request from Washington to expand Australia’s involvement.

Mr Abbott told reporters  on Wednesday that cabinet’s National Security Committee would most likely meet next week to determine whether air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq should be expanded into its more dangerous neighbour Syria.

The committee has to meet to make a decision and it is expected that meeting will occur on September 1.

Mr Abbott said the formal request for increased involvement by Australia had been made in a phone call to him from US President Barack Obama.

But he did not deny reports by Fairfax Media that the driving force for the request came from the government and, in particular, Mr Abbott’s office.

“Well, all I know is that I was on the other end of the phone line, the President was on Air Force One, the President had initiated this phone call to talk about the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Bamaga in Cape York.

“After I initially expressed my condolences for the terrorist shootings in Chattanooga (in Tennessee) the President then raised with me the Syrian situation and said that he would be very glad if Australia would do more, including air strikes.

“I was happy to consider that request and our officials would talk and now this request has come from the Pentagon.”

Mr Abbott said while Australia’s initial commitment was for air strikes in Iraq, it was important Australia did what it could to assist allies in the Middle East and other countries to defeat Islamic State.

“I’ve long thought that while the legalities are different, the moralities of this issue are the same on either side of the border,” he said.

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Health records showed a deterioration in the child after five months of foster care. Photo: Gabriele CharotteTwo foster carers who have been the subject of repeated complaints to the Department of Family and Community Services dating back several years still have two teenage girls in their care, prompting calls for tighter screening and monitoring of carers.

Medical professionals, the NSW Ombudsman and members of the local community have raised serious concerns about the couple, who cannot be identified for legal reasons.

Health records of one child formerly in their care show a marked deterioration in the state of the child while she lived with the couple.

The records, obtained by Fairfax Media, report the child showed no signs of trauma or malnourishment before going into their care. A follow-up medical report written five months later describes the same child suffering from malnourishment and emitting a foul odour.

The child’s biological mother, who cannot be identified, said she was concerned by her daughter’s dishevelled appearance at contact visits.

“When I read the medical reports, my first thought was that she had been abused,” the mother said. “How else does a healthy child go downhill in such a short period of time?”

The child was removed from their care, but a later investigation by the NSW Ombudsman noted concerns about three other children living with the couple.

The report found the couple had misled health professionals about the children, had exposed them to adult products and videos and locked at least one of the children in his room overnight. A risk assessment featured in the report recommended the removal of the children and the cancellation of their carers’ authorisation.

Shadow minister for Family and Community Services Tania Mihailuk​ questioned why foster children were still in the couple’s care.

“The NSW Opposition expects a full investigation into how it appears that the Ombudsman’s concerns in this case have been ignored and further an inquiry into how this government is failing to properly oversee foster care placements,” she said.

“Questions need to be asked, such as: What are the levels of oversight here? How are potential carers being screened? How often are carers being screened? How many people are on the ground making these checks? What processes are in place to action information gathered during these risk assessments?”

Jacqui Reed, chief executive of the peak advocacy group for children in care, the Create Foundation, said screening and monitoring standards should be improved.

“Create’s research indicates that children want carers and workers who care for them, are consistent and reliable,” she said.

“Yet it isn’t what is happening in practice because there are instances where children are not safe and are slipping through the cracks. What is needed is direct attention being given to this issue and a renewed commitment to providing excellent care through robust processes.”

A spokeswoman for Family and Community Services minister, Brad Hazzard​ said the safety of children in care was “our highest priority”.

A spokesman for the FACS department said probity checks on carers were regularly reviewed and carers were subject to ongoing monitoring. “FACS takes any allegations of harm to children seriously, including those in foster care, so whenever any such allegations arise we investigate,” he said.

“The safety of children is paramount in all FACS decisions. The department has an overriding responsibility to ensure that children entrusted to its care are safe and protected.”

100-year-old seawalls along the Parramatta River are struggling to cope with wash from RiverCat ferries. Photo: Janie Barrett A RiverCat nears the railway and pipeline bridges at Rydalmere on the upper reaches of the Parramatta River. Photo: Mike Bowers

The wake of RiverCat ferry. Photo: Ben Rushton

A jetty which was once submerged in water is now planted in sand and sediment, which waterfront lessees say has been washed ashore by RiverCat ferries. Photo: Janie Barrett

“Older walls, predating the RiverCats, obviously weren’t designed for this level of wave energy.” Photo: Janie Barrett

RiverCat ferries are causing “sinkholes” along the Parramatta River from Gladesville to Drummoyne, leading to repair bills of up to $300,000 each time, waterfront lessees say.

The issue has caught the attention of George Citer, the chairman of the Waterfront Action Group, who in recent weeks has heard almost daily reports of erosion “sinkholes”.

“Our members have notified us of substantial damage to their seawalls and other structures on the waterfront and they are blaming the RiverCat ferries…specifically the wake caused by the RiverCats,” Mr Citer said.

Waterfront lessees of the land owned by Roads and Maritime Services have been given quotes ranging from $50,000 to $300,000 to repair the damage.

Dr William Glamore, a principal research fellow at the UNSW Water Research Laboratory, said it was possible that wash from the RiverCat ferries was causing erosion.

“There are many reasons you get erosion, but the energy from the RiverCats is completely outside the natural energy of that environment. You wouldn’t normally get waves of that size and shape, particularly of the wave period,” he said. “That is directly related to wave energy…which causes the erosion.”

Dr Glamore said the “sinkholes” to which residents were referring is a process known as “slumping”.

“While the RiverCats are likely to be a major source of wave energy, the slumping occurs because older walls, predating the RiverCats, obviously weren’t designed for this level of wave energy and the rate at which they are failing could be related to the increased wave energy.”

There has been a decades-long campaign against the wash caused by the RiverCat ferries, which dozens of waterfront leaseholders from suburbs such as Drummoyne, Abbotsford, Gladesville and Huntleys Point say are responsible for years of seawall erosion along the Parramatta River.

As the fill behind the seawall is being sucked out by pressure waves, it is causing the land behind the seawall to subside.

“I know of someone in Drummoyne who has spent around $160,000 after two ‘sinkholes’ appeared. They filled one and roughly a year later they had to fill the second with 35 tonnes of concrete,” Mr Citer said.

“We have also been told of a commercial marina that has about $200,000 of damage to its jetties.”

Tony Hopkins, who has been repairing seawalls for 38 years, said the majority of the jobs done by his company Australian Seawall Specialists were the same.

“It’s a maintenance issue a lot of people don’t think about doing. It is their responsibility for them to look after their walls. You can’t blame the ferries, but the ferries are causing it.”

The  impact of the RiverCat ferries on the Parramatta River was examined more than a decade ago. In 1998, The Sun-Herald reported an independent engineering probe had revealed “more than 70km of land fronting the Parramatta River was dangerously eroded…by the ferries’ wave motions”.

Abbotsford Point Boatshed owner Roger Kyle said he still experiences deterioration to his waterfront boatshed, where waves wash up through his floorboards daily.

“I’m not the kind of guy to whinge about it … but it gets to you, you know? You’re up against city hall.”

Since the 1998 investigation, ordered by the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning, there have been two studies into the use of RiverCat ferries on the Parramatta River, in 2010 and 2013, commissioned by eight local governments.

Both reports found RiverCat wash to be “the primary source of erosion” in areas along the  river.

“A key management issue … is instigating modifications to or replacement of the RiverCat with another vessel that generates less wash to reduce further erosion by its wash,” the 2013 Parramatta River Estuary Coastal Zone Management Plan said.

Lawyer Warwick La Hood is representing waterfront owners in their domestic leasing arrangements with RMS, with whom he is working collaboratively on the issue of seawall damage.

“If RMS are aware and have been put on notice that the way they have managed the movement of RiverCats has caused the degradation to the sea wall, they will be exposed to liability in rectifying the damage.”

A spokesman for Transport for NSW said the NSW government’s $100 million boost for Parramatta River ferry services includes four new vessels, and the minimisation of vessel wash will be considered in future design options.

“It should be noted that ferry wash is only one cause of erosion. Other causes include natural events such as severe storms, flooding, high tides, wind fetch and public access to sensitive foreshore areas,” he said

“From around the late 1990s, the speed limit from Silverwater Bridge to Parramatta Weir was reduced to seven knots with vessels directed to move away from the shoreline where possible to minimise environmental impact.”

The RMS would arrange to meet with representatives of the Waterfront Action Group to discuss their concerns, he said.

Senator Arthur Sinodinos outside ICAC last year. He was called to give evidence about Australian Water Holdings. Photo: Rob HomerLiberal senator Arthur Sinodinos is free of a major legal headache after shareholders in a company embroiled in a corruption inquiry dropped a costly case against him.

Senator Sinodinos, a former chairman of infrastructure company Australian Water Holdings, was one of several former directors being pursued by the disgruntled shareholders to recover their investment.

The company and former chief executive Nick Di Girolamo, a prominent Liberal Party fundraiser, were the subject of a high-profile Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry last year into allegations the company improperly billed the state-owned Sydney Water for lavish expenses including limousines and airfares.

The inquiry crossed party lines and examined allegations that former NSW Labor ministers Joe Tripodi and Tony Kelly misused their positions in an attempt to benefit the company.

Australian Water assiduously lobbied the state Coalition government after the March 2011 election that swept Labor from power, and the commission was also investigating whether it paid $183,000 to an alleged slush fund set up by a former adviser to former minister Chris Hartcher.

The allegations of wrongdoing are denied and ICAC has yet to release its findings.

Senator Sinodinos is not expected to face any adverse findings but he was called to give evidence at the inquiry about the company’s expenses.

Justice Katzmann said in a preliminary judgment on Tuesday that the case against Senator Sinodinos had been discontinued and he was “no longer a party”.

Mr Di Girolamo and others – including former Labor treasurer Michael Costa, also a former chairman – are still being pursued in court. But Justice Katzmann has ordered that most of the shareholders provide a combined $2.4 million in security for legal costs to continue their fight. This could in effect bring the dispute to an end.

She said there was “credible evidence” that the companies bringing the case “may not be able to pay the respondents’ costs should their claims fail” and it was appropriate for them to provide security.

At the heart of the case is the allegation that Mr Di Girolamo and others persuaded the shareholders “to invest substantial sums of money only to squander their investments”, Justice Katzmann said.

Mr Di Girolamo’s brother-in-law, Danny Koutsogiannis, his school friend, Rod de Aboitiz, and the well-connected Navarra family, who run reception centres including Le Montage and Curzon Hall, are among the shareholders taking action. Mr Koutsogiannis, who is suing in his own name rather than through a company, was not ordered to provide security.

The case will be halted until the first tranches of the money are paid into court or a guarantee provided.

Orora chief executive Nigel Garrard says the company can no longer rely on a pick up in the US economy Photo: Supplied Packaging company Orora will spend $45 million on an innovation fund to encourage “out of the box thinking” to combat slower than expected growth in the world’s biggest economy, the US.

The company, spun-off from Amcor in 2013, posted a 25.9 per cent surge in net profit to $131.4 million for the year to June 30, despite subdued conditions in Australasia and North America. This excluded the cost of the Amcor demerger.

Orora chief executive Nigel Garrard said the company needed to invest in innovation to underpin further growth, saying it can no longer rely on a pick up in the US economy.

“[In] North America, there are signs of the economy beginning to improve,” Mr Garrard said.

“But events like the past week or two on the investment markets show that it’s still a period of uncertainty and our view is that we need to continue our own internal improvement activities and internal customer innovation rather than rely on the economy in either North America, Australia or New Zealand to drive any growth.” More ideas 

Most of the $45 million will come from the sale of the company’s land at Petrie in Queensland, Mr Garrard said.

He said Orora’s management had already approved one project under the fund – a “value-adding opportunity” to its glass business. Mr Garrard said the company was still finalising contractual arrangements and expected to announce more detail soon.

“That’s the type of thing we are looking at, that plus automation and improvement in our manufacturing processes are the two key drivers of the fund. Success for me would be that we have more than enough ideas that meet or exceed our hurdles,” he said.

Mr Garrard said Orora’s was also willing to inject 30-40 per cent more on top of the $45 million it committed to the fund if it generated enough ideas.

“We want to do that in a way that encourages our people to think differently, to look at what we do that’s outside the norm.

“If we can create the momentum and the out of the box thinking, if you excuse the pun, of those types of things, then for us I would be more than happy to increase the amount we would invest in that.” Steady growth 

Orora’s sales rose 7.3 per cent to $3.4 billion, while earnings per share jumped 25.9 per cent to 10.9 cents.

Mr Garrard said he expected further earnings improvement in the 2016 financial year, subject to swings in the global economy.

“The speed of any improvement in the US economy might be a little slower than the optimists thought, but for us I’m quite confident in our own business, and we have not seen any effect on core business in North America in the last weeks or months.

“I think we are going to have more steady growth there rather than a big pick up that some of the pundits were expecting six months ago.”

He said its B9 recycled paper mill in Botany Bay, which was completed in 2013, has exceeded expectations, with production increasing 10 per cent to 367,000 tonnes. Exports to North America rose 8500 tonnes to 55,300 tonnes in the past 12 months.

Orora’s shares were 0.5 per cent higher at $2.17 on Wednesday morning.

The company will pay a final dividend of 4 cents a share on October 13.

Flying off the shelves: The white and black options available at the 49ers’ online store. Photo: shop49ers杭州夜网mDENVER:Sporting giantNike isready to push the button tomass produceJarryd Hayne49ers jerseys afterunprecedented sales over the past fortnight.

Custom-made “Hayne 38” jerseys are in high demand after the 27-year-old Australian’s stunning opening to his NFL career,bursting into stardom after just two preseason games.

Given Hayne is yet to cement a spot on the final 53-man roster, his jersey has to be custom made by retailers – but that hasn’t stopped 49ers fans from jumping on the Hayne plane in numbers the club’s flagship store at Levi’s Stadiumhasnever seen before for an undrafted rookie.

“I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never seen anything like it before. It’s crazy,” a 49ersstore salesman told Fairfax Media.”Not only do I watch pro football, but I watch other sports too and this is unheard of. It’s incredible, his jersey is in high demand right now.He’s exceeded a lot of expectations transitioninginto NFLfootball. He’s a wonder kid. He’s in such high demand right now.

“The jerseys are custom madeand they aregoing off the shelves. We started making some custom jerseys for him about two weeks ago just prior to the first preseason game. But the media following and buzz around him havepeople interested.I’ve made about 10 or 15 custom jerseys myself. People are coming in and asking forHayne38 and waiting40 minutes to get that jersey custom made and tailored to their size. It’s grown men, it’s women. Everyone wants a piece of him at the moment.”

On the club’s official merchandise store website, Hayne’s jersey leads the page with five different options available to men ($US99.95), women ($US94.95)and youth ($US69.95).

At the moment his jerseys are all being custom made, however the 49ers have made contact with apparel partners Nike and are ready to begin bulk production.

“We have a back-up plan in place, yeah,’ the 49ers store salesman said.

“For now we’remaking that many customisations that we’re trying to get ahead. ButNikeare in the work of having his jerseymass produced to go on sale.Of course thefinal signing would be the Chargers game in our house on the 3rd of September. If he makes the squad then Nike will push the button on mass producing those jerseys.We have the jerseys and it won’t be long before we have personal custom items like playing cards and T-shirts.”

Figures on the number of Hayne jerseys sold areunavailable given they have all been custom made in stores,but it is estimated it’s gone well beyond three figuresalready.

The hype around Hayne continues to go grow back home and abroad, with many fascinated by the story of the kid from Minto.

“The limelight and the story. He’s come out of nowhere and transferred his skills excellently,” the 49ers store representative said.

He’s got agreat work ethic. The Niners fans are trying to figure out how he works. Ifollow rugby so Iknew who he was before he woreour colours. It’sthis running ability – they are amazed with what they see. How does he do it, they ask. It’s quite a story.”

It’s the second time this year there’s been a rush on jersey sales for an unheralded Aussie in the US after Cleveland Cavaliers’ MatthewDellavedova became the highest-selling NBA singlet during the finals.

A Droughtmaster cow keeps a watchful eye on her newborn triplets.A GLIMMER of hope has shone through the dusty aftermath of one of the worst droughts on record for Clermont Droughtmaster breeder Sonya Harvey after waking to find one of her young breeders with three calves at foot.

The heifer triplets were discovered Monday morning after their mother was left behind during mustering about four weeks ago.

“Her mob of breeders have been out on the leucaena paddock and we went out to muster them but left her and another cow behind because they’d just calved out so we knew they wouldn’t make it back to the yard if we pushed them,” Sonya said.

“I went out and swung the gate back and opened up the paddock for them to come through when their calves were ready and I woke up yesterday and found them waiting to come through.”

Sonya has just finished harvesting a sorghum crop on the 4050-hectare property Kenlogan just 60km north east of Clermont and said the lack of moisture has meant there won’t be a winter crop.

“We’re back down to 300 head of breeders now and have been offloading for the last four weeks to try and cut back our numbers.”

Facing the reality of destocking and the struggle to continue feeding supplement, Sonya said it was good to see the calves doing so well.

“Their mum has been on good tucker and and even though this is only her second season, she’s very good with them.

“We’ve drafted her out with the calves into a holding paddock and started her on a grain supplement to keep her condition up while she feeds them.

“It’s just a big shock to us – we’ve had twins before but never triplets.”

Sonya said it was vital to keep an eye on the calves over the coming weeks to ensure they continued to do well.

“We haven’t had a chance to name them yet, we’re just putting all our energy into making sure they’re okay.”

Queensland Country Life

Barn Bluff is Tasmania’s fourth-highest peak. Photo: Andrew Bain Barn Bluff is Tasmania’s fourth-highest peak. Photo: Andrew Bain

Barn Bluff is Tasmania’s fourth-highest peak. Photo: Andrew Bain

Barn Bluff is Tasmania’s fourth-highest peak. Photo: Andrew Bain

Sometimes great beauty demands effort. For every drive-up lookout in Australia, there’s another hidden delight that can only be reached on foot. Some are reached on simple strolls, but others reward only those prepared to hike for a full day, or days. Here are 10 of the best exclusive sights for those prepared to leg it. Piccaninny Gorge, Western Australia

Winding through the beehive domes of Purnululu National Park (aka the Bungle Bungles), Piccaninny Gorge is a journey deep into rock heaven. On a short walk you can poke about the gorge entrance, but it’s truly at its best if you hike the entire 15 kilometres through to its end.

Making a base camp inside the gorge, you can explore the well-named Fingers – a series of smaller gorges that branch off the main chasm. Expect mirror-smooth waterholes, towering rust-coloured sandstone walls and the opera-house-worthy acoustics of Cathedral Gorge. See  Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse, Victoria

Wilsons Promontory is the go-to spot for many Victorian bushwalkers and, at its southern end, just a few kilometres from the southernmost tip of the Australian mainland, sits this 19-metre-high lighthouse. It can be reached along a 20-kilometre inland walking track, or on a longer, more scenic coastal approach through Sealers Cove and Waterloo Bay that’s best broken into a couple of days.

It’s a great journey in, bettered only by the prospect of staying in one of the three visitor cottages beside the lighthouse. See Bluff, Tasmania

It’s the peak that gets blocked by Cradle Mountain, both literally and figuratively. Read any tourism literature and it’s Cradle that steals the show. Stand on the shores of Dove Lake and Cradle is parked in the way, hiding Barn Bluff from view.

But ‘Barney’ is taller, just as spectacular and offers a more challenging ascent than Cradle Mountain. And once you’re atop Tasmania’s fourth-highest peak, you’ll probably have its fractured, bouldery summit to yourself.

It’s an epic as a day walk, so follow the Overland Track to a night’s stop in the hut at Waterfall Valley, making the ascent from here – walkers can go as far as Waterfall Valley without requiring Overland Track permits. See Falls, Queensland

On an island that’s entirely national park, without a single resort or hotel, the only way to get places is on foot. On Hinchinbrook Island, that invariably means the four-day Thorsborne Trail, running along much of the length of its east coast.

Midway along the trail, as it swings inland from Zoe Bay, Zoe Falls pour down a cliff, providing a cooling tropical swim in the large pool at their base.

For something even more spectacular, the trail continues up to the head of the falls, where the scene is like an infinity-pool showroom, with swimhole after swimhole scoured into the rock and staring out over Zoe Bay. See Car Falls, Northern Territory

The irony is delicious – the only way to get to Motor Car Falls is to walk. Part of the Yurmikmik walks at the southern end of Kakadu National Park, Motor Car Falls is one of the park’s less-heralded waterfalls, but when you get here it’s hard to understand why.

The walk threads between lines of hills, often pushing through speargrass that might rise over your head. Once at the cliff-rimmed pool, there are boulders to dive from, a narrow crack in the cliffs to swim into, and often hundreds of butterflies drifting about in the shade of the overhanging cliff. See Oberon, Tasmania

The closest even most bushwalkers get to Lake Oberon are the framed prints of the lake that have hung in so many Australian homes. One of about 30 glacially carved lakes that seem to balance atop Tasmania’s wildly brutal Western Arthur Range, it’s part of a traverse that’s often called the toughest bushwalk in the country.

The terrain across the serrated ridgeline of the Western Arthurs is so complex and difficult that even full days of hiking might yield only four or five kilometres. A couple of days along the top, you come to Lake Oberon, punched deeply into the range and famously ringed with Tasmania’s endemic pandani trees. See, Northern Territory

The Top End is dotted with easy-to-reach Aboriginal art sites, but to view this remote Jawoyn gallery you must walk for days. Seen only by bushwalkers on the 58-kilometre Jatbula Trail through Nitmiluk National Park, the Amphitheatre is sheltered in a shaded gorge in otherwise-unshaded country – for most Jatbula walkers, it’s as welcome for its cooling effect as for its art.

The gallery features a number of human figures and a trio of emus painted in ochre on the cliffs. From here it’s just an hour’s walk to the stunningly situated campsite – and a freshening swim – atop 17 Mile Falls. See Kosciuszko, NSW

Until 1977, you could drive to the summit of Australia’s highest mountain, but these days you need to be a little more energetic. There are two common approaches to Kozzie, either walking along the old summit road from Charlotte Pass (18 kilometres return), or along paths and metal walkways from the top of Thredbo’s Kosciuszko Express chairlift (14 kilometres).

Once you’ve soaked in the view, consider stretching things out by wandering on to nearby Mt Townsend. It may only be the country’s second-highest peak, but there’s a fair chance you’ll come away thinking it more spectacular. See Beach, Tasmania

See way beyond Wineglass Bay by walking past the famed strand to this equally beautiful beach further south on Freycinet Peninsula. Cooks Beach faces into protected Great Oyster Bay, providing ocean scenes that often calm to a millpond at dawn and dusk. Look north and you can see all the way along the coast to the granite Hazards.

You can walk to and from Cooks Beach in one long day, but it’s a far better experience to camp here, with tent sites overlooking the beach from atop the low dunes.

Complete a peninsula circuit by hiking over Mt Graham and getting a Wineglass Bay fix on the return. See Karng, Victoria

Tali Karng is an unexpected and beautiful lake in Victoria’s High Country that was created by a massive landslide about 1500 years ago. It’s far from the reach of roads, but a few hiking trails converge at the tadpole-shaped lake.

The Wellington River walking track crosses its namesake river more than a dozen times before rising into the apocalyptically named Valley of Destruction – the debris of the landslide.

You’ll need to camp – it’s at least a 34-kilometre return walk – though the Gunai Kurnai Aboriginal people ask walkers not to camp beside the lake itself, which they consider sacred. See

See also: The world’s 10 most spectacular places to take a swim See also: The 10 best mountain experiences for non-hardcore travellers

One of the state’s worst rapists and paedophiles could be released from jail next week, nine years after he sexually abused a four-year-old girl at a Lake Macquarie caravan park.

The State of NSW has lodged an 11th-hour application to have Kevin Howard, 62, subjected to strict supervision should he be released on parole on September 3.

Even if he is not released on parole next week, Howard’s sentence for filming himself performing a series of sex acts on the girl at Teralba in 2006 expires on October 7.

Howard has spent 17 years of his adult life behind bars, the Supreme Court heard on Monday.

His sex offences date back to 1977 when, as a 24-year-old, he groped and propositioned a woman for sex while he was drunk.

Five months later, he raped a woman at knifepoint in a car park and was jailed for nine years with a non-parole period of four years.

Four months after his release in 1982, Howard and a friend went to “find a woman” in suburban Sydney when they came across a teenage couple walking along a street.

They scared off the boy and kidnapped the 17-year-old partially blind girl before repeatedly raping her in an isolated area.

Howard was jailed for 10 years with a non-parole period of five years, but ended up serving less than four years.

In 1989, while on parole, he approached three girls aged four, five and six in a Newcastle playground.

He pulled down the underwear of two of them and tried to perform a sex act on one of the girls before inviting them to go for a drive with him.

The girls said no and Howard was reported. He received 18 months’ periodic detention.

Howard was then able to abstain from his offending for more than 15 years, until he ended up living in a caravan park at Teralba.

In 2006, he lent his mobile phone to a friend who found photos of a man having sex with a child.

Howard was charged with possessing child pornography before it was discovered that the photos were of him performing sex acts on a four-year-old girl.

He was later jailed for nine years with a non-parole period of eight years.

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that Howard will be subjected to an interim supervision order regardless of when he is released before a hearing in November to determine whether he should be subjected to further supervision.

In the meantime, he will be assessed by two psychiatrists.

Howard has expressed a desire to live with family in Goulburn or Coffs Harbour, Justice Richard Button noted.

He has been a well-behaved prisoner and is a talented artist who has had little contact with the outside world, the court heard.

“Regrettably, the life history of the defendant demonstrates that he has an entrenched proclivity to commit very grave sexual offences against women and girls,” Justice Button said.

Newcastle Herald